The majority of tech companies will ask for references and 80% will contact them to evaluate potential candidates. It is important to have good references when transitioning between jobs in the tech industry as almost all employers will ask for them, 16% of employers even state they contact references between offering a job interview.
References have always been important but in the modern tech world having someone to vouch for your skills is incredibly valuable. Software developers don’t stay at one company for very long so having previous colleagues or managers helps your potential employer to get an idea of who you are.
Why do tech companies ask for references?
Tech companies usually ask for references to build a better picture of you as a candidate and help them with the decision-making process. 69% of employers have changed their minds on a candidate after speaking with a reference, with an incredible 47% saying it negatively affected their opinion.
Your resume serves as a way to get your foot in the door and is where companies are likely to consider things like education. Interviews are used to gauge you as a person and find out whether you and your style are a good cultural fit for the team. References are like the final piece in the puzzle that illuminates you a little further. Tech companies tend to ask for references to find out about your:
- Background – If you have specified a certain number of years of experience with a previous job, it makes sense to check you aren’t overhyping your previous experience. It also means they can check that you were actually coding in Python and not just writing it on your resume.
- Education – Often graduates put a university contact as a reference so it is used as a way for the employer to check your education history matches up
- Personality – A lot of references are used to give recruiters a better idea of what you are like to work with. Difficult personalities can be easy to hide in an interview or two. But a reference can highlight what you are really like as a person.
- Achievements – Candidates overselling themselves in interviews is nothing new. But references act as a counter to this. If you have specific achievements or things you have done, a quick checkup can verify this.
When do tech companies ask for references?
Tech companies may ask for your references at the very start of the application process. However, it is highly unlikely they will check up on references until they are ready to offer you a job.
Even small tech firms have so many applicants that checking every reference before an interview just wouldn’t make sense. Some people write great resumes but bomb in interviews so them checking references before they talk to you isn’t practical in most cases.
Big tech companies like Google will almost certainly check your references once offering you a job. However, some companies may not ask for references at all, others may ask but never actually check.
Make sure to never falsify a reference, you don’t want to risk a recruiter finding out and it would severely jeopardize your job prospects. Around 29% of recruiters said they have reported catching a fake reference, so it just isn’t worth the risk.
Do software engineers need references?
Most software engineers need references as part of the job search process. It is not uncommon for software engineers to be asked for references by potential employers, and 80% of companies end up contacting your references. References can provide potential employers with valuable information about your skills and abilities, so they are important.
In the software development world, references can provide insight into an applicant’s work ethic, skills, and abilities. They can also help to showcase your accomplishments and contributions to a team.
That being said, there are a few factors that determine whether you will need references as a software engineer, including:
- Company size – Larger more established tech companies almost always require you to provide references. Most will ask for them once they are ready to offer you a job but others require them upfront. However smaller local businesses may not have the time or resources to speak to previous employers.
- Job Type – If you are going for a software-focused role your new company needs to know you have the necessary skills. If you don’t have a portfolio or other ways to display your work, the next best thing a company can do is use a reference to verify you have the skills for the job.
- Industry type – You aren’t going to get a job in healthcare or education without references. These industries are also hot on background checks. However, Software development roles in local service industries won’t be as hot on your references.
Make sure that you are always honest with your references. Never falsify a reference and always make sure they are aware you have put them down. If an employer finds out the reference isn’t legit it is not going to reflect well on your chances.
Do tech companies check references?
Software engineers should assume that references will automatically be checked as around 80% of employers complete these checks before offering a job. Don’t be complacent and not provide references or provide fake details, as they will more than likely be contacted to verify your background.
Around a third stated they have caught a fake reference on an application and two-thirds of employers said that they received negative feedback when contacting a reference. So make sure you choose your references wisely and contact them so they are aware someone may call.
Also, you should only provide references to potential employers upon request. Providing references without being asked may result in them being ignored or even discarded altogether.
It is not illegal for previous employers to tell the truth about you and the work you produce. So make sure to pick people who are going to present you in a positive light or you could not get the job.
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.